Spain’s prime minister has said he conveyed concerns over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Xi Jinping, urging Beijing to discuss peace plans with Kyiv directly, during a visit to China aimed at boosting ties between the two countries.
Speaking to reporters on Friday from the Spanish embassy in Beijing, Pedro Sánchez said the talks with the Chinese president had “transmitted our concern at the illegal invasion of Ukraine”, as well as “encouraged Xi to talk to President Zelenskiy” to learn first-hand about the peace plan proposed by Kyiv.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy has repeatedly said he would be open to speaking directly with Beijing. The Chinese leader has yet to respond to his overtures, despite several rounds of talks with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.
With Friday’s meeting, Sánchez became the first western leader to meet Xi since the Chinese president travelled to Moscow earlier this month for talks with Putin.
Sánchez declined to comment on what Xi had told him regarding the war. Instead he said that he had used the meeting to highlight Spain’s support for the peace formula proposed by Kyiv in November, which includes demands to restore Ukraine’s territory to the status quo before Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
“I believe it’s a plan that lays the foundations for a durable peace in Ukraine and is perfectly aligned with the United Nations charter and its principles, which have been violated by Putin with his invasion,” Sánchez said. “I stressed the importance that Ukraine, as a free and sovereign state, should be the one to decide on the issues that affect it.”
On 24 February – one year after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine – Beijing published a 12-point paper that it said was aimed at easing the crisis. The paper argued that the international community should “create conditions and platforms” for negotiations to resume, and added that China could “play a constructive role in this regard”.
Beijing’s plans were largely dismissed by leaders in the west. When asked about China’s plan on Friday, Sanchez said he welcomed Beijing’s “complete and total rejection” of the threat and use of nuclear weapons in the conflict and its support for “territorial integrity”.
“I want to acknowledge the effort that the Chinese government has made to position itself on these two issues,” he added.
According to a readout reported by the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, Xi used the meeting to call for an end to a “cold war mentality” and to the pressure of “extreme” sanctions against Russia.
“We hope that all parties concerned will build a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture through dialogue and consultation,” CCTV quoted Xi as saying.
The visit comes as Spain prepares to take over the EU’s rotating presidency in July and ahead of general elections due by the end of the year. Against this backdrop, Sanchez has been keen to portray himself and Spain as a staunch Nato ally and an important player on the global stage.
It also comes one day after the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, told an audience in Brussels that Europe needed to have a “clear-eyed picture” of the risks when it came to EU-China relations. Von der Leyen is due to visit Beijing next week along with the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
Reuters and AFP contributed to this report